Unfortunately we didn’t have time to tour the castle itself, but we took our fill of photos and then wandered back through town. We decided to stop at a wine cellar that was advertising an Eisweinprob (ice wine tasting). We had never tried Eiswein but we knew it was a local specialty, and although it is now made in other areas of the world (notably
We drove to the castle by the same zig-zagging country roads that I had taken with my parents last year. The parking lot was quite full when we arrived, but it was, after all, a gorgeous fall day. On our walk down we were treated to terrific views of the castle perched on its little rocky promontory, embraced by the sparkling waters of the River Elz. The sun was still difficult for photography purposes but I managed to get some better shots this time. There was quite a line for tickets and we decided to take the German tour so we wouldn’t have to wait for an English one. We had a nice young woman for our guide and I really enjoyed seeing the castle again. I think John liked it too but it’s hard to tell with him – I think he is suffering from castle burnout. (Unglaublich, I know!) In case you missed it the first time around, here’s an excerpt from my journal about my first visit to Burg Eltz:
Burg Eltz is a tall, skinny, fairytale sort of castle that looks like the culmination of a dozen or so different architects slowly adding on bits and pieces to it over the centuries (which is a pretty accurate description). Its rather odd floorplan stems from the rocky crag it sits on, as the builders simply used the rock as a foundation and built straight up. The castle may seem isolated in its narrow valley now, but at the times of its construction it was well-situated on an important trade route. It is still owned by a branch of the same family that began construction of the castle in the 12th century – 33 generations ago! Over the centuries, the family split into three branches (Rübenach, Rodendorf, and Kempenich), but they all retained ownership of a part of the property and slowly constructed their own separate family houses – an arrangement known as a Ganerbenburg (castle of joint heirs). The castle was built as a well-fortified residence rather than a fortress, and, as it never came under direct attack except for a brief 14th-century regional feud, it survives today more or less in its original condition.
Various Eltz family members were important figures in regional politics, including several who served as Prince Electors of
You begin your tour in the castle courtyard, where you are surrounded on all sides by up to ten stories of ancient stone walls interrupted here and there by red-shuttered windows, half-timbered bits, and various chimneys, spires, and cupolas. Each of the three family houses has its own door, with the name carved over the top.
No picture-taking is allowed inside (this seems to be the norm in privately-owned castles, probably to ensure the sale of souvenir books to support the upkeep of the structures), but suffice it to say that the interior is spectacular – immaculately-preserved and fully furnished, looking as if the lord of the castle could settle in for a feast or a glass of grog by the fireplace at any moment. We started in the entry hall of the Rübenach house – the oldest portion of the castle – which today contains the armory collection, and proceeded into the Lower Hall, with gigantic oak beams, Flemish tapestries, and a clock that has been in the Eltz family since the year 1500. The Upper Hall was at some point converted into a master bedroom and contains a magnificent curtained 16th-century bed set on a wooden pedestal. A huge fireplace surely kept this room cozy in the winter. Colorful, well-preserved decorative painting covers the ceiling, which had been whitewashed (and thus protected) in the 16th century and was not uncovered for 300 years. We also got a peek at the wood-paneled toilet closet, one of twenty in the castle, which dates to the 15th century. The toilets were flushed by rainwater out to the river – pretty advanced plumbing for the time. (Our informative English handout also says that they used cabbage leaves and hay for toilet “paper.”)
We proceeded via a staircase into the Rodendorf house, which took its name from the family’s land holdings in
The Fahnensaal (Banner Hall) was used for banqueting and has gorgeous vaulted ceilings and a brick tile floor dating from 1490. Finally, we toured the large, comfortable kitchen, which has been outfitted to look like it did some five hundred years ago, including all sorts of wooden utensils, huge iron pots, a tufa-stone bread oven, and an enormous 15th-century flour chest.
After our tour, John and I walked down to the river and crossed a footbridge to get a view of the castle from below. We had a tasty lunch of sausages, potato salad, and glühwein from the castle’s small snack bar before walking back up the hill to the car.
It was getting on in the afternoon and we still had at least a three-hour drive ahead of us to get to our destination for the night, Romantik Hotel Schloss Petershagen near
There were only two other parties in the formal yellow-and-white dining room when we arrived. We had the taste of the chef, a tiny vegetable terrine, and then we both had the three-course menue of chicken liver mousse with calvados gelée, mixed salad with smoked ham vinaigrette, and medallions of wild boar wrapped in bacon, served on a bed of herbed mashed potatoes with wild mushrooms, creamy gravy, and Brussels sprouts. To accompany this delicious feast we had a Württemberg Weinsberg Spätburgunder. Dessert was the icing on the cake: John had spiced coffee mousse with red wine-soaked pear and I had chocolate ravioli with poppyseed butter, mango cream sauce, and rose oil ice cream. This was perhaps one of the most inventive desserts I’ve ever come across in my European travels! The rose oil ice cream was particularly interesting and inspired the quote of the day: “This tastes like a frozen bath product!” But I meant it in a good way, really.
More photos from today: